Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Singin' the Rough Draft Blues

Facing Your Editing

by Jessica Ralston

237 pagesWhen December 1 came around, I promised myself I would give it until January to start the edits. The thing is a beast: it's 237 pages and weighs about two pounds. It cost RMB100 to get it printed and bound, so about US$15. I have a feeling I would have paid a lot more at a Kinkos or an Office Max in the States, but it was still a shock when the printer told me RMB100. Yikes.

I settled in and started to read that night. My first reaction was, "Huh. This isn't awful. It's not good, but it's not awful." In other words, it can be made into something better, with a lot of work. There are some parts where I say to myself, "This is okay, this might work." Then there are other parts where I hold my head in my hands and say, "Oh God, what were you thinking?" I try very hard not to draw a box around the block of offending text and black it out with a permanent marker.

As I read I tried to make notes, but I found that this took me out of the story and moved my train of thought from just reading, to actively looking for mistakes and plot holes.

My next pass will be for blocking and note-taking and judging. Lots of judging. Some things I noticed, though:
  • There are a lot of subplots I set into motion but never followed through on. I suppose this comes with the territory of marathon novel writing; you forget what happened 10,000 words ago. I'll make note of these on my second pass, pick the ones that seem worthy of expanding, and go from there.
  • The second half of the story makes a lot more sense than the first; it feels a lot more cohesive and there's a definite voice. (Didn't I read somewhere that the first chapters of a book are almost always the ones you have to rewrite to fit the ending of the story? Yeah.)
  • I jump between what people are actually called, like if he's a king or a lord, if he's an uncle or a cousin. Also, my timeline seems to be a little wonky, so that will have to be established as well.
I blocked out all the scenes, and now have made a mess of my spare room floor. Every scene is on its own notecard so I can see how it flows together, and shuffle if I feel like it. It's proven pretty useful so far, but that's for another blog post.

I have a friend, who is also a co-worker, reading it over. She made notes as she read, but her she gave the whole thing a thumbs up. And said she wants to read it to her children. Whoa. I asked if she was absolutely sure she wanted to do that and she said yes.

I'm trying not to let myself get intimidated by the editing process. I suppose this is where a lot of amateur authors stop and convince themselves that there's no way they can do this, it's too big and demanding and sometimes gut-wrenching to carry on. But I'm going to power through, and try to build the best support system I can so I'm not tempted to throw in the towel.

Next week: notecard migration!

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